By Matthew BarakatThe Associated PressALEXANDRIA, Va. — A northern Virginia man who says he fears torture at the hands of Israeli authorities is back in the U.S. after a judge's order forced immigration authorities to reverse his deportation and bring him back from Israel before he ever got off the plane.
Abdelhaleem Ashqar recently served 11 years in prison for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Read more on NewsOK.com
By Matthew BarakatThe Associated PressALEXANDRIA, Va. — A northern Virginia man who says he fears torture at the hands of Israeli authorities is back in the U.S. after a judge's order forced immigration authorities to reverse his deportation and bring him back from Israel before he ever got off the plane.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Read more on NewsOK.com
Refuge of faith: Catholic Charities, Temple B’nai Israel welcome refugee Muslim family to Oklahoma City
By Carla HintonReligion email@example.comMichael Korenblit had to have help creating the sign he held up at Will Rogers World Airport.
He didn't know the Myanmar language but the education director at his Jewish temple quickly did some research.
Thus the smiling Edmond man holding his colorful sign were among the first sights that greeted a refugee family from Myanmar (formerly Burma) when they arrived in Oklahoma City in March.
The sign said "Welcome.Read more on NewsOK.com
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's prime minister on Wednesday condemned what he described as a "xenophobic" attack on the country's ambassador to Israel on a Tel Aviv street.
Israeli officials expressed shock at the attack and said they were investigating the assault on Marek Magierowski on Tuesday.Read more on NewsOK.com
NEW YORK—Between cups of coffee and a stroll in the park, Dmitri Levkovich practiced Chopin on his piano. Just playing a few phrases, he induced a quiver of delight that instantly filled his cozy apartment, nestled in Upper Manhattan. You could imagine how this emerging pianist could easily transport audiences in fully packed concert halls.
When he performed recently for Europe’s premier cultural TV channel, ARTE, he was introduced as “a thundering virtuoso” by the beloved tenor Rolando Villazón, no less. “Your whole soul sings when you play the piano. We are very grateful,” Villazón, the host of the program “Stars of Tomorrow,” told Levkovich.
To engender that kind of impact with such ease, however, requires unrelenting dedication. “There is no art without sacrifice,” Levkovich said, standing by his electronic baby grand piano.
“As a pianist, you have to put so many hours into preparing for a program. … I feel responsible for my audience, so when I perform I am in touch with my feelings as much as possible. I strive to be possessed by the music—in the sense that the music takes over my body and I am one with the whole experience. That’s how I invite my audience to share the experience,” Levkovich said.
Taking some respite after performing for ARTE TV in Germany, performing at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, and winning the first prize in the NTD International Piano Competition in New York (his 19th competition win), Levkovich spoke candidly about his life, music, and the challenges he faces as a performing artist.
Given the abundance of talented pianists today compared to the number of classical music concertgoers, the competition is extraordinarily high. Levkovich can play equally well on the brighter New York Steinway or the warmer, more sensitive Hamburg Steinway. That has given him a slight advantage in winning piano competitions. Although he finds any competition to be very stressful, he almost feels obligated to participate because it gives him opportunities to perform and to become more known.
He has performed in Carnegie Hall, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and the Mariinsky Concert Hall, among other great halls. Yet no matter where he has performed so far, how sharp he looks in a tuxedo at the piano, or how much his biography impresses—for the time being, he can only afford an electronic piano for practicing between concerts.
Dmitri Levkovich performs with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 2009. (Roger Mastroianni)
“Most young pianists can’t afford their own pianos,” he said. “It’s a difficult profession and it’s quite incredible—it’s quite an achievement to even be able to survive solely on performing, which I still manage to do.”
Born for Music
Listening to Levkovich play in person, even for just a few phrases of Chopin, or listening to his “Rachmaninoff 24 Preludes” CD, you get a sense that he was born to play the piano. In fact, he was exposed to Brahms in the womb; his mother is a pianist, as is his father, who is also a renowned composer. His grandmother was a coloratura soprano.
Immersed in a musical family, he started playing the piano when he was 3 years old, and went through a pivotal shift by the time he was 8.
“I threw enough tantrums until my mother just gave up and told me I don’t have to practice anymore. Suddenly, for three or four hours I existed in a different dimension where I was a free human being. Those hours of my life were just wonderful! Then I realized I missed the piano, and from my own desire I started playing the instrument. After that, I never felt I needed to be told to practice. It was my own choice,” he said.
His family migrated from Ukraine to Israel around the time the Soviet Union collapsed, then later settled in Canada. Levkovich later moved to the United States to study composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music with the critically acclaimed pianist Sergei Babayan for 11 years. Babayan instilled a strong sense of forbearance and reinforced Levkovich’s deep love for music.
Levkovich’s piano playing matches his demeanor—an amiable mix of humility and ambition. He plays every musical phrase, clearly with just the right degree of embellishment, rendered with a wonderfully calibrated mix of intense passion and lightness.
He pushes himself like an Olympic athlete, wanting to play pieces flawlessly even if he were woken up in the middle of the night and asked to perform a piece of music while half-asleep. “What you have to expect from yourself should be almost unrealistic, to get fine results,” he said.
When he prepares for a concert, he will practice the difficult parts of the repertoire twice as fast. That way, while performing, he does not feel like he’s playing at the limit of his dexterity and has more freedom to vary the tempo as he gives his interpretation.
Dmitri Levkovich at his home in Hudson Heights, New York, on Oct. 10, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
“There are so many ways to shape a phrase. You can practice it 10 different ways and come up with a multitude of options. Then on stage, it’s a matter of picking the right option in the context of what is happening before and what is happening after each moment—also depending on the sophistication of your taste,” Levkovich said.
The conditions for each piece and each concert are always unique. “You are creating this piece from the first note to the last, and you don’t know where it’s going to take you. … Chopin used to call it ‘searching fingers,'” Levkovich said.
Dmitri Levkovich. (Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)
He has received consistent compliments for sounding unique and honing his interpretations quite differently for each composer in his repertoire: Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mozart, Liszt, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky, among others.
What you have to expect from yourself should be almost unrealistic, to get fine results.— Dmitri Levkovich
Levkovich periodically asks himself how he wants to develop his repertoire and how much time he wants to dedicate to each composer. “I always listen to my intuition,” he said. “When I love a certain piece of music, I have to at least learn the notes and try it at first. Then I know it will take years of me playing many more pieces of that same composer for me to get to where I want to be.”
While some pianists may hide their lack of talent, ironically, by playing obscure or complicated pieces, Levkovich finds Mozart most challenging. On the surface, it may be easier to show off, so to speak, with a complicated dissonant piece for example, than it would be to play a clear classical piece.
“One of the most difficult things to accomplish on the piano is to play a simple melody organically—so that it is fulfilling enough,” he said. “That’s why Mozart is so difficult to play, because he’ll often have two lines and that is all. You’ll have enough time to [make] every note [meaningful].
“It took me a while to start feeling comfortable playing Mozart’s sonatas. His concertos were easier. You feel like you’re on a cloud of orchestral sound and very often you have just one line happening with the right hand.”
The Russian pianist, composer, and conductor Anton Rubinstein once said, “The soul of the piano is in the pedal,” but with Mozart, there isn’t much opportunity to use the pedal—to open up all the richness of harmonics and overtones in the piano. “You have to find a way to play soulfully without the pedal,” Levkovich said. “It’s like mastering a different language, in which you have to find a different way to really speak from your heart.”
Pianist Dmitri Levkovich at Fort Tryon Park in New York on Oct. 10, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
As a performer, Levkovich’s ultimate goal is to be fully present, without any worries or notions while playing something like a Mozart sonata, so that it doesn’t become predictable even if it has been played a million times before.
“I think there have been times when I knew I really got it. I cannot fool myself; I know when it’s happening and when it’s not,” he said.
“What inspires me is my love for music, which has been with me since I was a child. … There are obstacles, but what’s important in this profession is having the will and the perseverance—to dedicate as much time as needed—so that eventually the love for the music that you discovered as a kid eventually is heard in every note you play. No matter how long it takes,” Levkovich said.
“This Is New York” is a feature series that delves into the lives of inspiring individuals in New York City. See all our TINYs at epochtim.es/TINY, or follow@milenefernandezon Twitter.
Related CoverageFinalists at NTD Piano Competition Bring World-Class Skill to Online AudiencesDavid Fray, a Most Inspired PianistPianist Hélène Grimaud on Her Tribute to WaterArsentiy Kharitonov, a Maverick Pianist
BY JENNI CARLSONSTILLWATER — Mason Rudolph looked across the calm, blue waters in the Sea of Galilee and realized he'd always remember this moment.
Traveling around Israel this past spring with his grandparents, he saw many sites linked to his faith.Read more on NewsOK.com
President Obama can claim a political victory with the Iranian nuclear deal, while critics still denounce the move and the flood of money which would flow to Iran, who chants “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” days after the deal was struck. Now a 9/11 vote seems likely, officially changing our relationship with Israel, […]
WDBJ news anchor Chris Hurst pauses as he is overcome with emotion while holding a photo album that was created by fellow reporter and girlfriend Alison Parker, in Roanoke, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Vester Lee Flanagan opened fire during a live on-air interview for WDBJ, killing Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. (Erica Yoon/The Roanoke Times via AP)
People demonstrate in demand of Guatemalan President Otto Perez to step down over a corruption scandal, in Guatemala City on Aug. 27, 2015. Perez suffered a double setback Wednesday, after the country’s top prosecutor called for his resignation and his ex-vice president was maintained in jail for tax fraud. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)
Bedouin women take part in a protest against a plan to uproot the Umm Al-Hiran village, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the southern city of Beersheba in the Negev desert, on Aug. 27, 2015. In May Israel’s Supreme Court approved the removal of 750-1,000 Bedouin residents from the southern Negev village of Umm al-Hiran to enable the construction of a Jewish town. According to Human Rights Watch, the villagers say they were expelled from their land in 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and while they have been allowed to live there, Israel never recognized the village or approved a zoning plan for it. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)
A migrants’ group stands at a collection point of the Hungarian police near the Hungarian village of Roszke, at the Hungarian-Serbian border on Aug. 27, 2015. As Hungary scrambles to ramp up defenses on its border with Serbia, refugees continued to surge into the country in record numbers, police figures confirmed. (Csaba Segesvari/AFP/Getty Images)
Student protesters Joshua Wong (C L) and Nathan Law (C R) stand outside the Wanchai police station in Hong Kong on Aug. 27, 2015. The students reported to police for investigation into their participation in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy movement. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
Warragamba Dam spills water over the edge after reaching capacity on Aug. 27, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main reservoir, last spilled in June, 2013. (Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
Citizens wearing raincoats drive electric motor bikes in the rain on Aug. 26, 2015 in Zhengzhou, Henan Province of China. South China’s Zhengzhou City encountered severe convective weather on Wednesday afternoon. (ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton leaves court at the conclusion of his hearing on his felony securities indictment, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Fort Worth, Texas. Paxton pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges alleging that he defrauded investors before he became the state’s top lawyer, and his attorney Joe Kendall announced that he would no longer represent him. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison via AP, Pool)
Lebanese riot policemen take a rest near the government building during a lull in anti-government protests over an ongoing trash collection crisis, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Beirut has been jolted by daily protests for the past week, including two massive demonstrations that turned violent over the weekend. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Students clash with the riot police during a demonstration against an education reform plan pushed by the government of President Michelle Bachelet, in Santiago, Chile, on Aug. 27, 2015. Critics say the reforms fall short of overhauling a highly unequal education system inherited from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of late ruler Augusto Pinochet. (Claudio Reyes/AFP/Getty Images)
Police clash with victims of toxic investments made by former Banco Espirito Santo (BES) now Novo Banco (New Bank) during a protest in front of the Novo Bank headquarters in Lisbon on Aug. 27, 2015. (PATRICIA DE Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images)
While jury still deliberate, former St. Paul’s School student Owen Labrie, left, leaves the Merrimack Superior Court at the end of day with security in tow Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Concord, N.H. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of Senior Salute, in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving the prestigious St. Paul’s School in Concord. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter, Pool)
President Barack Obama is greeted by a woman during a tour of the Treme neighborhood Aug. 27, 2015, in New Orleans. President Obama visited New Orleans on Thursday to praise its people’s “extraordinary resilience,” 10 years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the “Big Easy” and shattered Americans’ confidence in government. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Colombian citizens cross the bordering Tachira River as they leave Venezuela with their belongings, arriving in Cucuta, Colombia, on Aug. 27, 2015. Hundreds of Colombians are fleeing Venezuela, opting to leave the country with their belongings rather than be deported empty-handed like more than 1,000 people sent home in an escalating border crisis. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border between Tachira and the Colombian department of Norte de Santander closed last week in response to an attack by unidentified assailants on a military patrol, which wounded a civilian and three soldiers on an anti-smuggling operation. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)
A masked kurdish militant holds a molotov cocktails in front of a barricade during clashes with Turkish police on Aug. 27,2015, in the Gazi district of Istanbul. Five people, including two children and a soldier, were killed in clashes between Kurdish militants and security forces in Turkey’s restive Kurdish-majority southeast on Aug. 27, 2015, local officials and the army said. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)
Forensic officers stand in front of a truck inside which were found a large number of dead migrants on a motorway near Neusiedl am See, Austria, on Aug. 27, 2015. The vehicle, which contained between 20 and 50 bodies, was found on a parking strip off the highway in Burgenland state, police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil said at a press conference with Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. (Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images)
Captain Ed Lloyd Owen links arms with Chelsea Pensioner Marjorie Cole as he completes his ‘Short Walk Home’ in aid of Walking With The Wounded on Aug. 27, 2015 in London, England. The walk from Cyprus to London has taken 5 months covering covering 11 Countries. The British Army Officer Captain has raised over 21,000 GBP for Walking for the Wounded. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo (L) shakes hands with Kim Yang-Gon, a senior North Korean official responsible for South Korean affairs, as South Korean presidential security adviser Kim Kwan-Jin looks on after their meeting at the Panmunjom on Aug. 25, 2015, in Paju, South Korea. Both countries came to an agreement to ease tensions after an exchange of artillery fire last week. (South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
The Minumurra River floods farm land in Jamberoo on Aug. 25, 2015, in Jamberoo, Australia. Residents downstream of the Jerrara dam which feeds into the river have been evacuated following the flooding of Jerrara dam. (Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Smoke billows from Ain El-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon during fighting between members of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement and Islamist militants on Aug. 25, 2015. Tensions between Islamists and Fatah have risen in recent months in the refugee camp. In July, two people were killed in clashes between the two sides. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on August 25, 2015 in New York City. Following a day of steep drops in global markets, the Dow Jones industrial average rallied early in the day only to fall over 200 points at the close. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Lava flows out of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, as it erupts on Aug. 25, 2015, on the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The volcano started to erupt on August 24, 2015 for the fourth time since the beginning of the year, according to a statement released by the Prefecture. (Richard Bouhet/AFP/Getty Images)
A Cambodian police official holds packets of marijuana for the media in a room filled with bags of the narcotic at the Anti-Drug Department in Phnom Penh on Aug. 25, 2015. Cambodian police on Aug. 25 said they have made a large seizure of nearly 1.5 tonnes of marijuana packed into coffee bags that worth more than 7 million USD in Western markets. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan mourners offer funeral prayers during a ceremony after a series of explosions at a gas storage facility on the edge of the western city of Herat on Aug/ 25, 2015. At least 11 people including several children were killed in a series of explosions at a gas storage facility on the edge of the western city of Herat, officials said on Aug. 25. The explosions triggered an inferno which spread to a nearby camp for internally displaced people where most of the deaths occurred. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images)
A police investigator (C) and firemen walk among wreckage left by a fire that struck a sports hall that was intended to house refugees and migrants applying for asylum in Germany on Aug. 25, 2015, in Nauen, Germany. Police announced they have ruled out a technical source as causing the fire and are assuming arson is to blame. Germany has seen a spate of protests, arson attacks and violence in recent weeks from right-wing groups opposed to Germany accepting more refugees. German authorities recently announced they expect 800,000 refugees and migrants to arrive in the country this year, many of them from war-torn countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
An African illegal migrant carries his belongings following his release from the Holot Detention Centre in Israel’s Negev desert, on Aug. 25, 2015. Israel began releasing hundreds of African migrants from the detention center after a court order, but the asylum-seekers were barred from entering two cities. A recent court decision ordered Israel to release the illegal migrants held for more than a year at a detention centre in the Negev desert, a ruling affecting 1,178 of the asylum-seekers. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
Telephone poles lean after Typhoon Goni hit Kamimine town, Saga prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. The powerful typhoon damaged buildings, tossed around cars and flooded streets in southwestern Japan on Tuesday before heading out to the Sea of Japan. (Masahito Ono/Kyodo News via AP)
Tens of thousands of protesters from Gujarats Patel community participate in a rally in Ahmadabad, India, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. The members of the community from this western Indian state are demanding affirmative action for better access to education and employment. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
People protest in front of the Embassy of the Russian Federation to support Oleg Sentsov and other political prisoners in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2105. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Citizens walk on handrail as severe flooding blocks the road on Aug. 24, 2015, in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Central Meteorological Observatory has issued yellow and orange alert to rainstorm as the accumulated precipitation data within three hours will rise to 50 mm in most part of Shanghai City. (ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Syrian refugees wait near the border railway station of Idomeni, northern Greece, in order to be allowed by the Macedonian police to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. The U.N.s refugee agency said it expects 3,000 people to cross Macedonia daily in the coming days. Greece has been overwhelmed this year by record numbers of migrants who have been arriving on a number of Greek islands. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)
Colombians deported from Venezuela return for their belongings and carry them across the Tachira River, border between the two countries, to Cucuta, in the Colombian North of Santander Department, on Aug. 25, 2015. Over a thousand Colombians “who did not have any type of identification” had been deported since Friday, according to the governor of the Venezuelan state of Tachira, Jose Gregorio Vielma. On Aug. 21 Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro indefinitely closed his country’s border with Colombia and declared a state of emergency in part of the frontier region following an attack on Wednesday that wounded four people. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)
Lebanese protesters set fire to barriers and trash behind the barbed wire separating them from the police, during a protest against the trash crisis and government corruption in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. The powerful Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah threw its weight behind mass protests calling for the government’s resignation Tuesday, deepening a crisis that started over trash collection but is tapping into a much deeper malaise. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
The world might never have seen Nazi Adolf Eichmann face justice if not for the personal zeal of a TV producer
Perhaps television viewers, gathered around in horrified fascination all across the world, had been expecting the shrieks and gesticulations of a fascist ideologue; or even another performance: desperate, tearful denials.
What they saw instead was, in some senses, one of the 20th century’s defining portraits of evil, captured for the first time on the 20th century’s newest medium.
The 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, which ran for four months with each session televised, still haunts the imagination.
But what is not widely known is the crucial role played by a young television producer who passionately persuaded reluctant judges, and indeed Israel’s prime minister David Ben-Gurion, that the proceedings should be screened for the world to see.
It’s no exaggeration to say the broadcast changed history. Milton Fruchtman is a real unsung hero
Milton Fruchtman, who is still alive and living in California, was 35 at the time and the driving force behind the pioneering broadcast, the first time viewers en masse had the opportunity to watch Holocaust survivors testifying to the horrors they had experienced. His story has now been told in a major BBC Two drama, The Eichmann Show, starring Martin Freeman as Fruchtman.
“At the time, the public were not thinking about the people filming the trial. They were, quite rightly, concerned and captivated by the people in front of the cameras,” says Laurence Bowen, the producer of the drama. “But it’s no exaggeration to say the broadcast changed history. Milton Fruchtman is a real unsung hero.”
Fruchtman himself is now 88 and not strong enough to take part in an interview. But in an email during research for the program he told Bowen he had been motivated by reading the philosopher George Santayana.
“I had been warned by one of my professors at Columbia University not to have unattainable expectations,” he wrote. “He said it was impossible for one ordinary person to affect the course of history, even in a minor way. But, fortunately, in my philosophy courses, I also heard [the Santayana saying], ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ and this dominated my thinking.”
Difficult as it might be for us to imagine today, in 1961 the world had still not faced up to the sheer scale of the Holocaust. Obviously, since the original newsreel footage of the death camps had played in cinemas in 1945, everyone was perfectly aware of what had happened. There was a sense, though, even in some communities in Israel, that people wanted to shut it out. Added to this, the Cold War had been freezing over; the authorities of the West were now focusing on their new enemies on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Fruchtman, a father of two young children, had been following closely the news that Eichmann had been tracked down to Buenos Aires and snatched by Mossad agents, then ingeniously smuggled out of the country in an El Al steward’s uniform. And he burned with a personal zeal to tell the world about Eichmann’s horrific crimes.
He also wanted to warn the world that the Nazi evil had not been wholly extinguished. In 1959 he had been in Munich, making a documentary about neo-Nazis for American TV. One evening, he accepted an invitation to a smart brasserie where Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda vehicle The Triumph of the Will was being screened. To Fruchtman’s indescribable horror, whenever Hitler’s image flickered up, there were cries around him in the audience of “Sieg Heil!”
He also visited a local fencing club. Once inside, he saw that portraits of Hitler and various Nazi leaders had been hung within. Club members clicked their heels to them.
So, as Eichmann sat in an Israeli jail, writing thousands of pages of self-justifying notes and memoirs, Fruchtman approached the court and asked for permission to film the forthcoming court case.
The judges were not sure. Would not the television cameras be an intolerable intrusion? Would filming not lead to accusations that Israel was staging a show trial?
But, as the processes of legal technicality ground on, Fruchtman went straight to the top.
He had interviewed David Ben-Gurion on camera on a previous occasion. Ben-Gurion was profoundly suspicious of the medium of television, regarding it as corrupting. But Fruchtman persuaded him that the trial needed to be recorded and broadcast as widely as possible, not just to show a blood-soaked criminal being brought to justice – Eichmann was hanged the following year in 1962 – but also for the new embattled state of Israel to grab the world by the neck and force it to really listen to the horrors inflicted on Europe’s Jews.
And no one in Israel save him and his director, Leo Hurwitz, knew how to do it.
“In Israel they only knew how to shoot with film, and I wanted to use video,” he told Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2011. “The light in the courtroom was insufficient for film. Aside from this, at a trial you must work with four cameras. There is a huge amount of raw footage. It was impossible for the Israeli studios, from both economic and technical standpoints.”
Fruchtman, who successfully resisted an attempt by the NBC network to wrest the rights away from him, allayed one of the fears of the judges by building holes into the walls of the courtroom. Cameras were then placed in these holes to ensure they were as unobtrusive as possible.
And when the trial broadcast, which featured on the nightly news bulletins in 37 countries finally began, it had an instantaneous impact.
More than 100 Holocaust survivors appeared in the witness box. Each gave their searing personal testimony: of cattle trucks, dark winter forests, degrading brutality, starvation, torture, the decaying stench of death ever-present.
It thereafter became accepted throughout the West that the Holocaust should be discussed, loudly, its victims properly remembered, not hushed away into the shadows through shame. West Germany became galvanised to track down other war criminal fugitives.
The broadcast also changed the way the world saw wickedness. Eichmann, the architect of death on a scale that is still almost impossible to absorb, did not look like a mass murderer. Fifty-five years old, with receding hair, thick horn-rim spectacles, suit and tie, he projected an air of stolid dullness, summarized by writer Hannah Arendt’s haunting description: “The banality of evil.”
Viewers were transfixed by Fruchtman’s black and white video images that zoomed in on the defendant. They observed him, standing behind bullet-proof glass, every twitch of his face, every rolling “r’” of his deep-voiced self-serving responses. It was the first time such a figure had been held up to such public microscopic inspection.
The trial, for which Fruchtman won a Peabody award for excellence in broadcasting, still chills today, and the BBC drama uses real footage. Eichmann had, from the earliest years of Hitler’s regime, been in charge of the forced movement of Jews. At first, via intimidation and violence, Jews were encouraged to leave Germany, then Austria, their goods and money stolen from them as they went. Then the anti-Semitism intensified step by step to a more terrifying frenzy: the yellow stars, the ghettoes, then the death trains, of which Eichmann was in charge. His implacable logistics created the timetables of slaughter, the transportation of Jews to death camps. He was there at the 1942 Wannsee conference in Berlin where “the final solution” was discussed. He was responsible, among many other atrocities, for sending 400,000 Hungarian Jews to their deaths.
After the war, Eichmann hid himself; at first in Austria, where his wife attempted via the courts to have him declared dead, and then, in 1947, across the Atlantic to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where he worked in a water supply company and called himself Ricardo Klement.
And then, a year after Eichmann’s capture, came the trial (or quasi-trial, since it was a foregone conclusion – he would hardly have skipped out of that courtroom a free man). Eichmann never denied, like some, that he was there close to the heart of the Nazi regime; but his defence of his actions, under the unblinking scrutiny of Fruchtman’s cameras, was couched in such a way to suggest that he was powerless before the workings of a mighty regime.
He described his original Nazi role as “emigration specialist.” “Everything was geared to the idea of emigration,” he said. “But constant difficulties were caused by various offices in a bureaucratic manner.”
He claimed that he had supported the idea of a Jewish state to be established in Madagascar. His wider claim was that manifold obstructions and complications, which he was powerless to remove or solve, somehow resulted in a chain effect that led via cattle truck to the death camps. He was only one cog in an inexorable machine; responsibility lay elsewhere. “Where there is no responsibility,” he said in a later session, “there can be no blame and no guilt.”
But he was lying about his ideological blankness. The German historian Bettina Stangneth, in her recent book Eichmann Before Jerusalem, examined more evidence, deemed inadmissible in that Jerusalem court: tape-recordings from the Fifties when, in Buenos Aires, Eichmann had socialized with Nazi Willem Sassen.
The quality was fuzzy, but Stangneth transcribed them more clearly. What they revealed was the essential Eichmann. “I have to tell you quite honestly,” he declared to his friend, “that if… we had killed 10.3 million, I would be satisfied and say good, we have destroyed an enemy… what’s good for my volk is, for me, a holy command and a holy war.’”
One of the (many) shocking aspects of the televised trial was that Eichmann, who was found guilty of 15 charges of crimes against the Jewish people and against humanity, could not even feign remorse. Yet in a sense, how could he? His hatred of the Jews was at the core of him. How could such a man ever be ‘”de-Nazified”?
Yet this is also one of the reasons the televised Eichmann trials still fascinate. They force us to confront the central mystery of evil. Not so much that it is “banal,” precisely, but that it can look and sound so reasonable, like us. And is there any conceivable way that men such as Eichmann could ever find redemption? By asking us all to look at him squarely, as opposed to simply reading his words, or his self-edited diaries, the television cameras challenged viewers to look into darkness deeper than they had wanted to admit existed.
‘The Eichmann Show’ was aired on BBC Two